Middle Names First, Celebrity Style: Meet Troyal Garth Brooks & Hannah Dakota Fanning

By Linda Rosenkrantz

In case you don’t think the middle name choice is an important one, just take a look at the startling number of celebrities who have opted for using their middle names in lieu of the first name on their birth certificates! Some have dropped a ho-hum common in favor of a more dramatic middle, others, to avoid confusion, have shed a name shared with their parent.

To begin with, there have been five US Presidents who have made the first-middle name switch:

Famous Middle Names

Hiram Ulysses S. Grant—At 17, when entering West Point, his name was mistakenly written as Ulysses S. Grant and he apparently was happy to lose the HUG initials. The S was for his mother’s maiden name, Simpson.

Stephen Grover Cleveland—named Stephen in honor of the first pastor of his father’s church, but always called Grover

Thomas Woodrow WilsonWoodrow was his mother’s maiden name—he dropped Thomas after graduating from college

John Calvin Coolidge Jr—he named his children John Coolidge and Calvin Coolidge, Jr—covering all his bases

David Dwight Eisenhower—his father was also David, so his mother reversed the two names after his birth to avoid the confusion of having two Davids; the president’s grandson inherited the David name.

Some other older examples:

Eldred Gregory Peck—his father was Gregory Pearl—the actor definitely made the best pick of the lot

Samuel Dashiell HammettDashiell was his mother’s maiden name, he was known as Sam (as in his character Sam Spade) before he began writing under the Dashiell name (and then nicknamed Dash).

Pearl Zane Grey—born in Zanesville, Ohio, named for his great-grandfather, to a mother whose maiden name was Zane; he dropped the feminine Pearl early on

George Orson Welles—he was named after his great-uncle George Head and great-grandfather Orson H. Head; the future Citizen Kane-maker opted for the more distinctive name

Boys who dropped their Daddies’ names:

Charles Robert Redford, Jr

Christopher Chace Crawford

Daniel Jason Sudeikis

George Alexander Trebek

James Paul McCartney–the name was passed on to Paul‘s only son, making it a three-generation tradition

Michael Trent Reznor

Monroe Jackson Rathbone V—MJR II was the head of Standard Oil, MJR V is also related to Stonewall Jackson and Basil Rathbone

Troyal Garth Brooks

William Bradley Pitt (The two William Pitts shown in the illustration)

William Clark Gablehe was named after his father, but was called Clark—the maiden name of his maternal grandmother– even in childhood, as well as Clarkie, Billy and Gabe.

Other Boys

Allen Kelsey Grammer

Aubrey Drake Graham—the future rapper used the name Aubrey Graham when he acted in Degrassi: The Next Generation.

Christopher Ashton Kutcher

Clarke Issac Hansonusing middles as firsts is something of a Hanson family tradition (see Jordan Taylor). And Isaac carries on the convention with his sons Clarke Everett, called Everett, and James Monroe, called Monroe. Clarke is the name of the father of the clan.

David Jude Heyworth Lawthe Jude was for both Jude the Obscure and ‘Hey, Jude

James Hugh Calum Laurie

John William Ferrell

Jordan Taylor Hansonhis oldest child is named Jordan but, of course, called by his middle, Ezra.

Matthew Ryan Phillippe

Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone

Milton French Stewarthe is the fourth generation of his family to wear the name French

Philip Anthony Hopkins

Thomas Jacob (Jack) Blacknamed his son Thomas David Black

Thomas Sean Conneryhe was called Sean as a lad when he had a close Irish friend and the pair became known as Seamus and Sean, though he was usually called Tommy. Thomas was his grandfather’s name.

Walter Bruce Willis


Audrey Faith Hill

Dorothy Faye Dunaway

Elizabeth Stamatina Fey—you have to wonder if she was ever called Liz

Elizabeth Tea Pantaleoni

Geetali Norah Jones Shankar—she changed her name to Norah Jones officially at the age of sixteen

Hannah Dakota Fanning

Katherine Mathilda (Tilda) Swinton

Kathryn Bridget Moynahan

Laura Jeanne Reese WitherspoonReese is her mother’s maiden

Lila Diane Sawyer

Mary Elle Fanning—followed in her sister Dakota’s name-changing footsteps

Mary Kathleen Turner

Mary Rose Byrne—these three are among many who have dropped the name Mary

Mayte Michelle RodriguezMayte is a variation of Maite, originally a contraction of Maria and Teresa, and currently Number 24 in Chile

Nicole Evangeline Lilly

Olive Marie Osmond—her mother is Olive May

Robyn Rihanna Fenry







Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required


9 Responses to “Middle Names First, Celebrity Style: Meet Troyal Garth Brooks & Hannah Dakota Fanning”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

emekct Says:

October 14th, 2014 at 1:46 am

It’s Clarke Isaac Hanson (Isaac is misspelled in the listing). Of note, their father also goes by his middle name, Clarke Walker Hanson uses just Walker. Zachary Walker Hanson goes by Zac, but his sons follow the family tradition: John Ira Shepherd goes by Shepherd and George Abraham is known as Abe. The trio of bandmate brothers have a 4th brother whom also goes by a middle name, Joshua Mackenzie Hanson is commonly called Mac. For some reason this “tradition” applies only to the boys and not the girls of the family. And there’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about the Hanson family, but what kind of fan and name nerd would I be if I hadn’t check out the naming patterns of my fave band?

NiamhEthna Says:

October 14th, 2014 at 3:49 am

Also, Lee Alexander McQueen!

LilBit0318 Says:

October 14th, 2014 at 9:56 am

Maybe not quite an “A-lister” (Yet!), but you missed my favorite actress, Stephanie Italia (“Italia”) Ricci from ABC Family’s “Chasing Life”. According to her, when she was a teenager and trying to do some modeling, her agent saw that her middle name was Italia and suggested she use that instead. She did, and it stuck, to the point that I’m pretty sure she actually uses it in everyday life at this point.

miloowen Says:

October 14th, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Growing up my best friend was named Ricky. When we went to first grade, we were both in Mrs Timmons’s class. Ricky’s last name started with a W, so it was a while before Mrs Timmons got to his name. She called, “John. John W.” and I remember Ricky and I both looking around the classroom for the kid named John who was probably Ricky’s cousin. She must have called that name five times. Finally, she asked if there was anyone who’s name wasn’t called and Ricky raised his hand, telling her he was “Ricky W.” She said she didn’t have a Richard W, only a John.

Lol. We later found out that Ricky’s full name was John Frederick W III.

indiefendi Says:

October 14th, 2014 at 2:36 pm

You should add the boys of the band Kings of Leon to the list! They all go by their middle names. Lead singer Caleb Followill is Anthony Caleb Followill, drummer Nathan is Ivan Nathan Followill, guitarist Matthew is Cameron Matthew Followill, and bassist Jared is Michael Jared Followill!!!

KickinKay Says:

October 14th, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Good call Tea Leoni! I’m not sure I could take a Liz Pantaleoni seriously, all I can think is pantalones.

bananie21 Says:

October 14th, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Thank you for this post! It’s one of the most interesting that I’ve seen in a while and I totally enjoyed reading every bit of it!
It also explains why I’ve always thought Evangeline Lilly never looked like her name fit her. She totally looks like a Nicole!

brookesher17 Says:

October 15th, 2014 at 8:14 pm

I read this post yesterday, and thank you so much for it! I love reading things like this, it was very interesting, i loved it!!!

maybe_someday_baby Says:

October 18th, 2014 at 8:36 am

Alexis Bledel (Rory of Gilmore Girls) is actually Kimberly Alexis Bledel.

leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.